Christian maturity and Christlike love… How are those things expressed in relationship to others?
I’ve encountered fellow Christians who reveled in, and insisted upon, their so called “freedom.” They declare they’ve been set free from an old, outdated, “legalism” and are now enjoying dressing, participating in, and indulging in things they say they weren’t able to in the past! I’ve even heard a few make this statement in so many words… “No one is going to tell me what I can and cannot do!” They emphatically declare, “If the Bible doesn’t explicitly forbid it, I’m going to do it!” Fact is, for some of them there is no discernable difference between their lifestyle and the lifestyle and values of the broader pagan culture.
Now I acknowledge that “freedom in Christ” and the Gospel message negate salvation by works. I’m pretty aware that Apostle Paul was not at all pleased with believers who simply turned salvation by grace alone into just a list of rules (check out Galatians)!
Interestingly though, the position of the Apostle Paul was not “I’ll enjoy my freedom at all costs” … His approach to Christian maturity and Christlike love instead urged believers to limit their “freedom” for the benefit of fellow Christians. He warned them to avoid trampling upon the convictions and personal scruples of fellow followers of Christ.
Here it is from my Bible reading today during my time of “coffee with the Lord”…
“Decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a [fellow Christian]! … If [fellow Christians] are grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil… Let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong to make another stumble… It is good not to do anything that causes fellow Christians to stumble… We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please our neighbor for their good, to build them up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘the reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’”. (Adapted from Romans 14:13 – 15:7)
Let me put it this way… I’m grateful for my freedom in Christ – that I am not saved by my works. But I want to follow in the footsteps of “the One who did not please Himself” but gave Himself for us all! Because of that, I never want to be guilty of flaunting my freedom! Instead I want to be willing to limit my freedom for the spiritual benefit and welfare of fellow Christians!